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Re: Great Design

"You know those gorgeous old brownstones in New York City? With the elaborate carvings, gargoyles, and beautiful iron fences? Well, if you dig up the old architectural plans, the architect would often just write something like "beautiful fretwork" on the drawing, and leave it up to the artisan, the old craftsman from Italy to come up with something, fully expecting that it will be beautiful.

That's not design. That's decoration."

But, you're missing the BIG point.  The old Italian craftsman, the artisan, HAD TO DESIGN the decoration. The architect had sufficient faith in the artisan's ability to design the decoration, that he "left him to it".  The architect (the overall designer) deferred to the "specialist's" knowledge of the artisan's trade, in the full expectation and belief that the artisan would not compromise the "overall" design with something inappropriate.

A great working knowledge of somebody else's ability to deliver?  We don't see much of that these days.  Everybody, at every level, wants to impose their will on everybody else...
Bruce Nichol Send private email
Thursday, January 26, 2006
I think you are missing the distinction between "design" and "decoration." Decoration relates solely to how something looks, if it is pretty or not. Design is much bigger. It relates to how something looks as well, but also deals with how people interact with it, how it makes them feel when they are interacting with it, and how the thing being designed inter-relates to other things in the environment.

If the creator of the ironwork on the house is working in isolation they can't do a complete design because they know nothing about where the ironwork is going. They may not know who is going to be living in the home, what the home is made of, or what other "decorations" are going to be around. All the ironworker has to go on is the sense of esthetics in isolation.

I don't want to diminish the importance of esthetics or art, they are both impoartant, and hard, and crucial, but "design" is much more sweeping.
Garth Shoemaker Send private email
Thursday, January 26, 2006
I think those were bad examples, but I'm hard pressed to think of anything better. Err... when creating carvings, gargoyles and iron fences, you do have to take into consideration certain constraints.

Carvings and gargoyles for example, have to be shaped in such a way that water and snow do not accumulate. Iron fences have to be built up to code; they must support the weight of an adult (or two) leaning against it. Those constraints make this a design problem, not just mere decoration.

I think the trashcan was a better example - all Joel needed to do was say "the cans must appear pleasing to the eye." In which case, you can spray paint them almost any color/pattern you want and that's decoration.
Thursday, January 26, 2006
Ok, I think your fence example is better. I agree there is definitely a design aspect to that. It is not the complete design though, as the architect putting the house together has to pick which fence to install. The ironworker probably made several different kinds of fences, all within the constraints you provide, and then the person assembling everything has to consider the constraints particular to their project, and pick the right fence from those available.
Garth Shoemaker Send private email
Thursday, January 26, 2006

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